FAQs: Organic food

The term 'organic' seems to draw polarised responses these days. Some people swear by purchasing only organic food items, while others cast the trend aside, calling it silly, trendy or a waste of money. So what's the truth behind purchasing organic food? Are these items really better for the environment? How about for your body? We've outlined some answers to your most important questions about organic food.

Are organic foods healthier for you?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there isn't any conclusive evidence stating that organic food is any more nutritious than its conventional counterparts in terms of vitamin or mineral content. Most people who purchase organic foods, though, are more concerned with pesticide use.

In modern-day Australia, the majority of conventional crops are grown with the help of pesticides. These chemicals keep bugs and pests at bay, allowing farmers to produce massive amounts of single crops (known as monocultural farming). While this is good for cost and production, many people worry that pesticide exposure can lead to health problems in humans. ToxicsAction.org states that some suspected dangers of pesticide exposure include nerve and skin damage, headaches, fatigue, and even increased risk of autism in children born to mothers exposed to high pesticide levels.

Are organic foods healthier for the planet?

Though there isn't conclusive evidence that pesticide use can impact health at the level to which average consumers are exposed, the effects of pesticides and monocultural farming on the planet may be of higher concern to environmentalists. Pesticide runoff has been shown to affect organisms living in our oceans, streams and rivers.

Furthermore, monocultural farming – which demands the use of pesticides due to its low levels of biodiversity – extracts massive amounts of particular nutrients from the soil. In a more biodiverse, organic farming environment, nutrients are replenished through crop rotation and through the growth of various plans.

Are organic foods more expensive?

Organic foods are currently significantly more expensive than conventional food items. However, a recent study by Applied Horticultural Research (AHR) found that Aussies are more than willing to pay the price.

"More than 40 per cent of participants indicated they were willing to pay more for certified sustainable products, while more than half said supermarkets should favour environmentally-responsible suppliers, even if it meant prices would increase," spokesperson Hugh Gurney said in a press release.

If the benefits to the planet aren't enough to convince you to buy organic, consider this: Browsing the farmer's market and throwing your produce into a reusable bag is a far more enjoyable experience than rushing through a crowded supermarket.